On the bus, on the toilet, at the office, at the dinner table, while waiting in line: there are so many situations and micro-moments when consumers browse social media without sound. Because of this trend towards muted feeds, videos with subtitles are more engaging, memorable, and accessible than videos without captions.
But what do you do if the platform you are posting to doesn’t support closed captions? Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and IGTV, for example, make it difficult to add and edit captions, even though many people browse their feeds with the sound off. To reach more viewers, creators need to add permanent subtitles to their video so that the text always appears when someone is watching the video. Embed text directly and permanently into the MP4 file so that your message reaches people with hearing impediments and people watching with the sound off.
Even on YouTube and Facebook, permanent subtitles – known as “open” captions – are becoming increasingly popular. Creators can control the styling and timing of the subtitles so that they’re more eye catching and readable and so that they appear consistently any time the video is watched. Open captions always appear on the video, so viewers don’t need to tap the “CC” button to know what’s going on.
Luckily, there’s free, simple software for “burning” subtitles directly into a video. In this article, I’ll describe how to add permanent subtitles to an MP4 using a free, online video editor called Kapwing.
If you don’t have a transcription for your video but want to add subtitles for the dialogue, start by going to Kapwing’s Subtitle Maker. Upload your video or paste a link to the video, if it’s already on YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, or some other website.
When the video has loaded into the editor, you’ll see a video preview playing on the left column. Scroll down below the editor and click “Auto-Generate” to get a AI-powered transcription of your video. After a few moments of processing, your text and timings will appear in the subtitle editor.
After a few moments of processing, your text and timings will appear in the subtitle editor. The video preview will update with the subtitles overlaid on top of it. You can use the sliders to adjust the start and end time of clips and edit the text to edit spelling, punctuation, and tempo. Use the master playhead to play your video and see what the subtitles will look like.
After uploading your video from the Subtitle homepage, click the “+ Add Subtitle” button to insert new lines and manually input the text that you want to appear. Then, use the slider handles to set the start and end time according to when you want the captions to fly in and out of the video.
From an .SRT File
If you don’t want to transcribe your videos manually, you can order a transcription from a service like Rev. Transcription vendors will deliver a subtitle file with a .SRT extension that contains the text and timings for your video.
Alternatively, you can download your SRT file from YouTube or other sites that provide a similar automated transcription service. Don’t worry if the subtitles have errors — you can correct them from within Kapwing’s editor.
Once you’ve uploaded your video to Kapwing’s Subtitle Maker, click the “Upload SRT” button or drag your SRT file onto the button. After several seconds, the SRT text and timing will appear on the editor, and you can adjust the timing, correct errors, and edit. When the subtitle preview looks correct, click “Create” to burn the improved subtitles permanently into your video.
In the left column, you’ll see many options for what your text could look like on your video. Play around with different options to see how they look with larger blocks of text. First, you can choose the video size, which changes the aspect ratio of your video and optimizes for social media. Do you want a 9:16 vertical video or 1:1 for Instagram?
You can also set a custom font, color, and background. Your text can be aligned to the top, middle, or bottom of your video (in addition to left, centered, and right).
Complete and Process
Once your video preview looks perfect with the subtitles, watch it through once more to ensure there are no typos. Then, click “Create” to permanently add the subtitles to your video. Kapwing will process your MP4 in the cloud so that it won’t heat up your computer. After your video is done loading, you can share the URL or download the file and share it with the world! You’re also able to “edit” the subtitles in case you notice any typos.
Kapwing is free to use, but there will be a small watermark on the output video. You can pay a fee to remove the watermark or subscribe to Kapwing’s unlimited no-watermark plan.